One of the great perks of having been at this wine writing thing for some time involves my association with the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, for which I am now a member of its Advisory Council (just by way of a disclaimer in advance of the plug which follows). And one of the great pleasures of this association is getting to spend a few days every year attending the convocation that occurs under this association’s banner, nestled into the luxurious surroundings of Meadowood Resort in the Napa Valley.
I’ve been to all of these Symposiums in the last 10 years, save one, and I can tell you that for anyone who writes about wine, or dreams of it — or anything in between — the conference represents an unparalleled opportunity. An opportunity to learn, to practice, and just as importantly, to celebrate wine writing and the people who are passionate about it.
This year’s lineup of speakers is quite impressive. For three days, attendees of this year’s conference will get to hang out with, listen to, and learn from an incredibly talented (and famous) group of individuals, including: Jancis Robinson, Betsy Andrews, Evan Goldstein, Dave McIntyre, Louise Kiernan, Will Lyons, and more.
I’m particularly excited that one of the keynote speakers this year will be US Poet Laureate Billy Collins. He’s one of my heroes.
In addition to such accomplished professionals, there are always a lot of people who are in much earlier stages of their careers, including some who have just begun their journeys as aspiring wine writers.
Perhaps one of those people should be you, especially if you have ever been paid to write about wine (which is the entry criteria for attendance).
The main point of this announcement, other than to get fellow wine writers to consider blocking off your calendars in late February, is to make you aware of the fact that the Symposium gives away 10 fellowships each year to aspiring writers. These fellowships cover both the modest cost of attending the Symposium, as well as the cost of lodging at Meadowood, which even at discounted rates isn’t negligible.
The fellowships are awarded based on quality of writing, and all you have to do is submit your work. The deadline is November 1, 2014. That’s two days away.
While I certainly can’t say that the competition for these fellowships is sparse, I can say that it is not so fierce that the winners are always accomplished wine writers with a lot of bylines on their resumés. For the past three years, I’m proud to say that some folks at the very beginning of their wine writing careers, encouraged by this annual posting, have won a fellowship to attend.
I’ve watched magazines get launched from this conference. I’ve watched amateurs with a few blog posts to their name blossom into serious wine writers that write regularly for major print and online outlets. And I’ve both watched and participated in the continual renewing of the intimate sense of community that the world of wine writing enjoys in part thanks to this Symposium.
And did I mention that the whole thing is catered by the same kitchen that operates the Michelin Three-Starred Meadowood Restaurant? Oh, and don’t forget that every meal after 11 AM is flush with wine from the libraries of the Napa Valley Vintners Association. The food and wine alone are worth the price of admission.
The week I spend in Napa as a speaker and attendee at this conference is one of the best weeks of each year for me, and I hope you’ll consider joining me (and lots of other folks who are more worth getting excited about) at the event, either as a paid participant, or as a fellowship winner.
The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers
February 17-20, 2015
St. Helena, CA
The fee to attend is $595 per person, and that will go up to $695 after December 1, 2012. Participation is open to those who write about wine and food in some professional, journalistic capacity, and in any medium. This means that if you make your living, or part of it, doing PR or Marketing writing for wineries or the wine industry, you may not qualify.
Fellowship applications are DUE ON NOVEMBER 1 and are submitted as part of your online registration for the symposium.
I am, of course, happy to answer any questions you might have about all this.
Hope to see you there.